I noticed your story in OBA53, on ‘Rene Pregasso’, Australia’s first (?) Ducati agent, which was recalled by Chris Avakian, after a chance meeting with 72 year old ‘Fred’ at a garage in 2012. The history of Ducati’s Cucciolo engine sales in Sydney has intrigued me since seeing the first advertisements for them being sold through Nock & Kirby’s in George Street, Sydney. This was because Lambretta scooters were also being sold at N&K around the same time and I had wondered if there may have been a connection with Sam Jamieson, the first importer of Lambretta and Vespa scooters into Australia in 1949. I have had the opportunity to further research Chris Avakian’s recollection of Fred’s story and can confirm the truth of that part of Ducati’s history and can now clarify further details.
Australia’s first Ducati importer was indeed Rene, but his correct name is actually Rene Silvio Joseph Bregozzo. He was born in 1907 at St. Croix, Switzerland to Italian parents. He was a master violinist and taught music later in life. He began playing the violin at age 4 and also played the piano and viola. He played his first public recital at age 7. By November 1928, at the age of 21, he had travelled to Australia and was in Melbourne performing with his violin in musical recitals and performed in the ‘Sisserman Trio’ and became the director of ‘The Continental String Orchestra’ performing at various theatres, and by 1932 was teaching violin at ‘The New Conservatorium’ in Melbourne and was known as Professor Bregozzo. At some stage whilst in Melbourne he meet Nancy Isabel Milburn who after working for the Keilor Shire Council for 10 years left in 1938 for Italy where she married Rene in August of that year. They remained overseas until returning to Australia from Italy in October 1948. This certainly fits in with the recollection of ‘Fred’. It must have been in the period, 1933 to 1948 that Rene first took up working for Ducati. Fred’s story involves Nancy’s sister, who is actually Fred’s mother, Marie Eccelston Milburn who in 1934 married Leonard Smethurst Crowle in Victoria. Sometime after 1938 the Crowle family moved to Sydney where it is believed Leonard (Fred’s father), worked for ‘A.H. Hasell & Co.”, a firm involved in timber wholesale and at some stage Mr Arthur Hasell had been involved in importing phosphates and mining. In fact, Mr Hasell was a director of ‘The Farmers Fertiliser Corporation’. Both Hasell & Co, and the Farmers Fertiliser Co. operated from 251 George St., the same building as I.C.I., a large chemical concern. At the end of October 1948 Rene and his family returned to Sydney from Italy and following on from Fred’s details it appears Rene was out to sell Ducati products, namely their radio sets and cameras and the new production of Cucciolo motors. In this respect Rene established his own company, “R.J. Breg & Co., which indeed did operate out of 251 George St Sydney, as recalled by Fred. Given the tutelage by Leonard Crowle as mentioned by Fred, it appears Rene went about establishing sales interstate in the 1949/50 period. To this extent Rene rode a Cucciolo, 631 miles from Sydney to Melbourne on 2 ¾ gallons of petrol in 26 hours to publicise the abilities of the Cuccciolo in May 1950. The first arrival of Ducati Cucciolo motors may well have been on the ‘Ugilino Vivaldi’ on 28 February 1949 when 2 crates of “auxiliary engines” arrived into Sydney Port from Italy. Although no connection has been found between Lambretta and Vespa’s first importer, Sam Jamieson, it is certainly an amazing coincidence that Lambretta scooters and Cucciolo motors started being sold through Nock and Kirby’s within days of each other in August 1949; and Vespa scooters and Cucciolo motors being sold in Western Australia through W. J. Lucas Ltd. within days of each other in October 1949. It is also of interest with ‘A.H. Hasell & Co.” and Leonard Crowle being involved in the wholesale timber trade and Sam Jamieson along with his brother, John Jamieson, at the time, being active in the timber business in Sydney. The Jamieson brothers were also active in importing goods from overseas and, in fact, they had employed, Lionel Van Praag, the World’s first speedway Champion, as a pilot and leased his plane to fly Italian immigrants and goods, and no doubt, the first Vespa to arrive in Australia from Rome; certainly a series of related events that does not rule out a connection between Bregozzo and Jamieson. By 1952 Fred’s father, Leonard Crowle, had passed away so Rene’s tutelage came to an end. At some stage Rene actually worked at Nock & Kirby’s as this is mentioned in the US paper “Orange County Register” in 2008 on the occasion of Rene’s 100th birthday: It is stated in that article that: “Rene Bregozzo and his wife, Nancy, moved their family from Australia to the United States in 1961. The family lived in Newport Beach, then Costa Mesa, and finally settled in Irvine. Once in Orange County, he began teaching music and worked at a small business started by one of the Ducati brothers (Adriano Ducati).” Rene Bregozzo died in 2009 aged 101 at Irvine California. His Obituary can be read at: http://obits.ocregister.com/obituaries/orangecounty/ obituary.aspx?n=reneacute-josephbregozzo&pid=117102001 He has two grandchildren living in Sydney with the Bregozzo surname. So in 2012, Chris Avakian was talking to Fred: a.k.a. Frederick John Crowle, whom I believe is still with us. I hope that the above facts add to the knowledge of Ducati’s beginnings in Australia.
... Rene rode a Cucciolo, 631 miles from Sydney to Melbourne on 2 ¾ gallons of petrol in 26 hours... in May 1950.
Rene Bregozzo on his 100th birthday.
he memorial to Rene Bregozzo at North Sydney.